We the people of the United States are members of the most fortunate, most successful, most powerful nation that ever existed upon this planet. Recent outbursts of terrorism have frightened us into forgetting how strong we are, how many resources we have, what great things we can achieve if we decide to evoke the creative qualities of every human being on earth.
This country was founded upon universal principles of freedom and equality. It offered possibilities and opportunities that drew millions of immigrants to its shores. It finally eliminated the scourge of slavery which marred its history. It has risen to tremendous heights of productivity and prosperity. It has friends and enemies everywhere.
We the people can put this giant nation under a new course – a course which can transform the world. It is true that God blessed America. Let us share our blessings as we did when we helped many nations recover from the ravages of World War II. We helped our former enemies to shake off totalitarian systems and reach heights they had never known before. We helped to create the United Nations and other international organizations which have brought benefits to people on every continent. Now the time has arrived for us to take the lead in launching a Decade of Service to Humanity.
It is time for all of us to adopt the personal policy described by Albert Einstein many years ago: “A hundred times a day I remind myself that my life depends on other people living and dead, and that I must invest myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving….” The strength we have acquired came to us through other human beings – and we must use that strength by opening our hearts and reaching out to others across all boundaries.
When the World Trade Towers were destroyed in September of 2001, people from eighty countries dies in the wreckage. There was a huge surge of compassion from people in the United States and many of those countries. People invested themselves in countless ways to help the victims of that attack and their families. People everywhere realized “a hundred times a day” that their lives depended upon other people living and dead. The repercussions from those who died penetrated the consciousness of all the millions who saw the towers exploding. The memories were implanted forever.
The creation of a Decade of Service to Humanity, sponsored by people in America, will have impacts upon people of all generations. It could bring giant strides to eliminate poverty and disease, to link people together in cooperative efforts in every field – just as people worked together to cope with the effects of the terrible explosions in the Trade Towers.
The launching of a Decade of Service would not require a declaration by the United Nations. It would not require action by the Congress of the United States. It would not have to be sponsored by any of the governmental or nongovernmental bodies existing in the world today.
It would simply require a state of awareness by every human person of the connections on which every life is based. It would demand a universal circulation of the statement made by Dr. Einstein: “A hundred times a day I remind myself that my life depends on other people living and dead….” That statement could be placed on the bulletin boards in every school and church, in every business office, in every courtroom, in every place where human beings gather.
What would be the effects of reminding ourselves “a hundred times a day” that we are supported and sustained in countless ways by those who labored to build our civilization, who enabled us to produce enormous quantities of food and clothing, wide networks of roads and highways, enormous harbors filled with ships, huge airports crowded with planes, enormous broadcasting systems and internet webs of electronic communication? What would be the effects of realizing that people in every part of the world, people from the East and the West, the North and the South, people of every color and every religion, people from Africa and Asia, from Europe and Latin America, from Japan and China and Iran and Iraq, from Brazil and Poland and Germany and Spain, are important in our personal lives?
If we kept these facts steadily before us, we could take part in a Decade of Service to Humanity. We would insist that our representatives in Congress, the President and his advisors, the ambassadors at the United Nations, would have to recognize and fulfill the needs of human beings for a decent, satisfying life. President Truman said once that every person had a right to such a life.
The statement of Albert Einstein came from one of the most brilliant scientists who ever lived. His thinking about the structure and potential energies of the atom led to the release of nuclear energy, the most revolutionary event of the twentieth century. He declared that the release of that energy changed everything for humanity, whether human beings realized it or not.
In this Nuclear Age, when thousands of weapons of mass destruction exist in our country and in other nations, we live with the possibility of annihilation at any time. We seldom realize that human beings have the power to wipe out all life on earth. If we brought a realization of that awesome possibility into our minds every day, we would have an additional motivation for using our strength to serve humanity – and all the forms of life connected with us.
“We the people” have achieved many worthy goals in the past. Millions of us are engaged today in lives of service in many fields. Many of us know that serving one another brings the deepest rewards, the most enduring happiness that we can enjoy. The idea of being a Public Servant motivated many of our most admired leaders – Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess and Harry Truman, Rosalyn and Jimmy Carter, Jonas Salk, Earl Warren, Lady Bird Johnson, John Kennedy, Philip and Daniel Berrigan, and many others. All nations have produced men and women whose services to humanity have inspired millions of people from all generations.
A Decade of Service to Humanity might be followed by a noble era of humanity’s development – an era that could stretch for centuries or eons. The earth could become a place of everlasting peace, a place filled with the signs of love shining far into the future.
We the people of America can lead the way. Let us start now!
*Frank K. Kelly is the senior vice president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His fields of service include human rights – he was vice president of the Fund for the Republic and the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions – and public affairs. He was a speech writer for President Truman, a noted journalist, a war correspondent, and author of many books on American history. In the 1950s, he was a special assistant to Majority Leaders of the U.S. Senate. He lives in Santa Barbara.